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Sadr the agitator: like father, like son

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Though it may appear as if Sadr came out of nowhere, he's employed a philosophy of total opposition, and the means to carry out, inherited from his father.

While the family fought Hussein, and now stands against the US, their oppositionist position has always had one objective: To bring the rule of wilayat al faqih, or the rule of the jurisprudent, to Iraq, patterned after Iran's theocracy. "In difficult situations like the ones we faced under the regime of Saddam Hussein, people will always look for leaders who stand up for their rights,'' says Imam Hazim al-Araji, a cleric close to Moqtada. "The Sadr line showed themselves to be the ones willing to stand up to [the] regime, and suffered for it. The people really respect this."

With a ruthless campaign of assassinations, Hussein had cowed most of the Shiite clergy in the 1990s, with major regime opponents in exile. The hawza, the senior Shiite leadership and seminary teachers in Najaf, were silenced.

Sadek courted by Hussein

Mohammed Sadek al-Sadr's rise to prominence was an unconventional one. Close aides to Moqtada say the regime approached the father in the early 1990s and even steered funding towards him in the hope that he'd help co-opt Shiite sentiment that had flared in the 1991 uprisings after the Gulf War. Though the Shiites make up about 60 percent of Iraq's population, they have never held power.

Under the cloak of Hussein's "Faith Campaign" in the early years of the decade, which was designed to recast the secular Iraqi dictator as a defender of Islam, Sadek al-Sadr sent emissaries throughout the center and south of the country, building up a network of clerics with similar ideas. But he didn't stay loyal to the Hussein government. By about 1995, he began calling for the resumption of Friday prayers, which had been mostly banned by the Hussein regime except in mosques controlled by clerics loyal to the government.

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